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Lies. Soren could see them in the old woman's eyes, fluttering around like shadowmoths. It was infuriating, especially the way she barely tried to hide the contempt in her voice, the wrinkled curl of her lip.
Soren struggled to keep his voice calm, his datapad trembling ever so slightly in his grip. He was so close. "I'm going to ask you one more time, ma'am. Have you seen this woman?"
The old woman met his eyes. "No."
He suppressed the urge to put his fist through her face. They both knew who she was - the tattoos on her neck were faded, but still legible despite their age. Blood Hound. Maybe a graduate of one of their first classes. Had Soren been less experienced, or perhaps a little less intelligent, he'd have dismissed the old woman as a non-threat, but anyone, particularly a female, who could survive for this long in a gang like the Blood Hounds was not to be trifled with. In a bar like this, in this kind of city, even little old women were hard.
"Time to leave, meat," the Gran hissed from behind. Something cold even through the skinsuit pressed against the small of Soren's back.
Here it comes. Soren bit off a smile. "Very well. Thank you for your time, ma'am." He turned, giving the Gran a look that would have shattered glass. "The back door, right?"
The Gran grunted.
Soren left the bar face first, landing in a pile of garbage with a hiss of pain. He pulled himself up, only to be slammed down again by a mighty fist that felt like it shattered his spine.
He'd taken beatings before. He was of average height and weight, meaning that he was too small to duck to avoid the blows and far too weak to block them. His best bet was to roll with the punches, expending the Gran's kinetic force whenever possible and guiding punches towards the chest and shoulders rather than his head or groin. If he was lucky and the skinsuit managed to hold, he'd escape the beating with some heavy bruising and a few cracked bones. A few screams - loud enough to make the Gran think that he was causing serious damage but quiet enough not to attract too many prying eyes or opportunists - and Soren cut the figure of a perfect victim.
That didn't mean that it was pleasant. This Gran was as good at dishing out beatings as Soren was as good at taking them. It was almost expert work, though no expert would take this much enjoyment out of slamming a man's face into a duracrete wall.
When Soren finally slipped free of the Gran's grasp, he fell to his knees and coughed up his breakfast. Out of his working eye he could see that the alien was breathing heavily. Then he was blinded again as the Gran spat in his face.
"Stay out of Tyrena, meat. I see you again, you dead." The goat-alien turned and stalked back into the bar, leaving Soren twitching in a pool of blood stains and vomit.
Soren's hand curled around the Gran's commlink.
It was fairly easy to track the Blood Hounds' movements through the commlink's memory banks. Like any good business they kept records, complete with lists of suppliers and product movements. The Gran must have been fairly high up on the food chain; no mere foot soldier would have been able to carry this much sensitive information on his person.
It was the kind of evidence that any prosecutor would kill to get his hands on. Soren gave himself five minutes before the Gran realized that it was no longer in his pocket.
The Jedi apprentice hobbled out of the alleyway, reading as he went. Three days ago something had disrupted Blood Hound movements around the sewers. A small army of merchandise and foot soldiers, along with enforcers and a few captains, had left to parts unknown, and several hundred enforcers had been sent to comb the area around the abandoned distillery district. A hostile takeover, maybe?
There were no hints in the text files about a rival gang operating in that district, though. There some talk about a fleeing target, some threats about the price of failure, and a veiled reference to a mutual employer.
Soren slipped the commlink into his pocket. If the distillery district was where this enemy had fled, it would be a simple matter to find it. Good old fashioned police work and magic space powers. Easy enough.
The Jedi apprentice took in a deep breath, wincing in pain as it put a strain on his ribs, then ran as quickly as the strained tendon in his leg would let him.
The Force guided him. Whoever had left this trail, through underground tunnels, garbage-filled corridors and frigid underpasses, had been a Jedi, which only excited him further. Light called to light, forming a breadcrumb of sensations and emotions, leading to...
It was an abandoned building, perhaps seventy stories tall, built under a traffic control station. The entire thing looked unstable, like an old man with brittle bones.
Soren slipped through one of the many broken windows and pulled out his blaster pistol.
The breadcrumbs led him down an access shaft and into the basement, where the natural light of the building dropped off and was soon supplanted by the red glow of bacta. Soren dropped (painfully) into a long corridor, with empty bacta tanks leading to...
She floated in the bacta, her blond hair floating like a golden cloud around her, her skin as pale as the bandages wrapped around her wounds. A few umbilical cables linked into her body, pumping intravenous fluids into her slender body. Despite the rage building inside of him, as red as the bacta in the girl's tank, Soren had to admit that there was something astonishingly beautiful about her. Crystal snake. Venomous bite, swallows you while you're sleeping.
Soren raised his pistol, aiming for the girl's chest as he limped forward. The red tide surrounded his vision, and when he found his voice it was a scream. "KIROS!"